By Golden Sibanda
TELECEL Zimbabwe says it has, from the outset, allowed all banks and other licensed operators to offer financial services to clients using its unstructured supplementary service data mobile platform after unveiling its new mobile money service last week.
This follows the launch of its mobile money transfer service code named telecash last week, which was the first mobile payment solution to be connected to Zimswitch, an instant electronic payment interchange system.
Telecel Mobile Financial Services director Mr Nkosinathi Ncube said on issuing the mobile services licence, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe emphasised the need to ensure interoperability of the system by allowing other players access to achieve the critical objective of financial inclusion.
“We connected to Zimswitch because we wanted customers to enjoy full financial services. So all banks that are on Zimswitch, through their mobile banking wallets and internet banking, are able to interact with telecash,” he said.
Telecash allows registered Telecel subscribers to open and operate mobile phone-based wallets they can use to send or receive money as well as perform other payment transactions such as transfer funds to and from their banks, pay bills to merchants and top up mobile phone airtime.
“By virtue of us being connected to Zimswitch, from a merchant-retailer point of view, we are able to develop innovative products Zimbabweans can use to pay in the market,” Mr Ncube said.
However, Mr Ncube said, Telecel still retains the right to chose institutions it is willing to allow to transact on its USSD platform, as part of measures to guarantee total security.
“From day one we have opened it (telecash) to all the financial players, although we will choose who comes in because of security issues, but any secure financial system, we want it to be able to connect to telecash,” Mr Ncube said.
“For instance, there always are players in the market who will come and say can we connect to telecash? So, our definition of security is to say is you system authorised by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe? It has to pass the tests that the central bank puts for the payment systems,” Mr Ncube said.
The position contrast sharply with that of Telecel’s biggest rival Econet Wireless, which was embroiled in a dispute with banks, primarily, over access to the USSD platform, and then terms regarding the use of the mobile money transfer gateway.
The wrangle has become so nasty to the extent banks were planning to gang up against the company and bar Econet’s banking unit Steward from transacting on the Zimswitch circuit. Zimswitch is collectively owned by local banks.
In line with the thrust of interoperability, Telecel said it was also at advanced stages of talks with other potential partners such as NGOs, farming organisations and insurance companies for custom structures products they want.
This was guided by the reality that almost everyone is working with a limited budget, hence the need to forge as many partnerships as possible with one way of achieving that being the use of cellphones as the common payment channel.
Mr Ncube said the telecash mobile money transfer service was similar and at par with what competition was offering in the market. He said Telecel will strive to ensure that all the core services provided by Telecel are accessible on telecash.
To that end, Telecel said it has already invested over US$2 million towards developing and integrating the service while additional resources will be put into further expansion.
The country’s second biggest mobile telecommunications operator after Econet Wireless is targeting to connect about 60 percent of its 2,5 million active subscribers, as per the last three months, to be transacting on telecash by year end.
As the company rolls out telecash to ensure the widest coverage, it will not discriminate against agents who also double up as middlemen for competitors in the mobile services market.
However, said Telecel, the issue of affordability will be made of paramount importance to ensure as many people as is possible are able to use the facility.
Mr Ncube said to ensure seamless integration of the system Tecelel hired experienced and award winning vendor, OBO Pay from India, to develop the system as it has done this before in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the United States. The Herald